Hustle and the Christian Life

As a millennial, I’ve noticed that one of the big variables in my generation’s understanding of success is this concept of “hustle.” This term seems to carry the definition, or implied understanding, of always being on the move, looking for the project to be part of, the next side job to start to make extra cash, etc. I’ve fallen into this trap myself, often wondering where I can make some extra money. I find this concept to be a bit problematic, let me tell you why.
Recently, I started wondering the validity of this way of life for myself as a believer. As someone who identifies as a Christian, I was weighing the opportunity cost of constantly focusing on “income,” not as a measure of success, but as an attempt to make my life easier. I’ve ebbed in and out of these seasons of my life, at times working as many as four jobs to bring in all the income possible. It seems like the right thing to do, as God provided me a brain, I’m good with people and I like working hard. Why not put all three of those talents into making a good life, thus making it possible to be a better member of society, and what I thought was pleasing to God.
I’m not saying that “hustle” is a bad thing, necessarily. However, what I’ve seen to be consistent is that the people who are hustling the hardest seem to be missing out on the beauty that is walking with God. When I peruse through the gospels, rarely do I see a picture portrayed of Jesus in a hurry, trying to get to the next thing. Where he is, he is all there. Even to the point of waiting a few extra days before coming to see Lazarus in John 11. “Lord, if you had been here…” Martha says.
I think we often mistake rest for laziness, at the expense of our mental health. In 2010, UCLA reported, “Fewer students than ever before are reporting above-average emotional health. Additionally, students feel increasingly overwhelmed before entering college; twice as many female students report feeling this way.” Have we hustled ourselves into exhaustion? Are we staying busy for the simple sake of being busy?

I don’t say this to say we shouldn’t work hard, apply ourselves, and be dedicated to our craft. But dedication to the point of obsession, in the life of a Christian, in my understanding, can—and from my own experience—and often does lead down the dangerous road of idolatry. Jesus slowed down, spent time away, rested, recharged, hunkering down in the presence of his Father for the sake of fulfillment, before going out again. Do you have a “Sabbath?”